Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Only in Brussels

A mix-up at my Brussels hotel resulted in me getting a touch of the VIP treatment: a little tray of complimentary refreshments and delicacies awaited me in my room, accompanied by this note:

Given that the hotel is a stone's throw from the European Parliament, which was in session at the time, the Madame Le Pen in question may safely be assumed to be French Front National MEP Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie.

Leaving aside the fact that an elected official travelling on public business at the taxpayer's expense is unlikely to be best pleased at suggestions of relaxing and chilling out, how bizarre for a leading member of the devotedly francophone Front National to be met with an English-only greeting in what is after all (to a first approximation) a French-speaking city - and within spitting distance of the bastion of linguistic diversity that is the European Parliament (the hotel's raison d'ĂȘtre no doubt).

Yet it is not unusual in Brussels to find hotels, like this one, in utter denial of their French-speaking environment: reception staff who speak no French, in-room guest information in English only, TV menus without one regular French-language channel (out of maybe 50).

Perhaps it's just a consequence of the tensions between Belgium's linguistic communities, though why international chains should let themselves get involved in that is beyond me.

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